Below are and answers to some interview questions I posed to Julie Klassen after reading a Netgalley Copy of her New Novel 'The Tutor's Daughter', due to be released tomorrow. My Review of the book may be seen here.
Most Christian Historical novels that I know of are set in America, what made you choose to set ‘The Tutor’s Daughter’ and some of your other novels in Britain or England?
Yes, all of my novels have been set in England so far, with The Tutor’s Daughter being set specifically in Cornwall. I have been fascinated with England ever since I read The Secret Garden and Jane Eyre as a girl. I’m not sure why the setting appealed to me so much, but to this day I am captivated by the rich history, delicious accents, and beauty of the country. My husband and I have been able to visit England twice now and hope to return soon. I jokingly say the real reason I’m writing is to justify my long-held desire to travel to England!
I have been told that Christian Historical novels set outside America do not tend to be so popular or sell so well. Did you find this to this to be the case with yours?
True. I was advised early on that if I wanted to sell more books, I should set them in western America in the late 1800s—a very popular setting for Christian fiction. But I’m a big believer in writing the kinds of novels your yourself love to read. So that’s what I do. And I’m deeply thankful that sales have been good and many readers are enjoying travelling to early 19th century England with me through my books.
Parts of the Tutor’s Daughter seem to reflect Jane Eyre and other classics; did these consciously influence your writing?
As I mentioned, I was introduced to Jane Eyre at a young age. My 6th grade teacher read the book to us aloud over several weeks with real emotion and even mascara-tears. She (and the book) certainly made an impression on me. My third book, The Silent Governess, was more directly influenced by Jane Eyre than this one. But everything we take in influences us and effects our writing, whether we realize it or not. That’s why I always encourage young writers to make sure they are reading well-written, worthwhile books.
Are any of the characters in ‘The Tutor’s Daughter’ based on any characters we might recognise from the classics?
I wouldn’t say “based on,” but I can think of several characters in my books that have been influenced or inspired by characters I’ve met in the pages of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell and others. In this book, I would say Emma Smallwood reflects some qualities of sensible, stoic Elinor Dashwood from Sense & Sensibility. And perhaps Phillip Weston has a few things in common with mild-mannered, conflicted Edward Ferrars.
Most of your novels seems to be set on the 1800s or the ‘regency’ period (though it should be called Victorians), is this era of particular interest to you and why?
[[Note fyi only: Most writers agree that the Victorian era began in 1837 with Queen Victoria’s reign. The Regency period is the time when the Prince Regent ruled (1811-1820), though some extend it through his reign as king after his father died. In any case, here’s my answer:]]
I am specifically drawn to the Regency era (1811-1820) because that was when Jane Austen’s novels, which I enjoy and admire, were published (though written somewhat earlier). I think Regency novels are a great fit for the inspirational market in particular, because they are set at a time when people, by and large, valued virtue, revered God and church, and endeavored to follow the rules of polite society—things less common today. It was a time when chivalry was alive and well. Physical contact between unmarried ladies and gentlemen was limited to the chaste touching of hands during a courtly dance at a grand ball. I find it a very romantic time, as do many I’m happy to say!
I confess to knowing very little about this period (the Medieval Era is my speciality), but it seems your research has been very extensive. Can you tell me more about that?
Yes, I have had to do a lot of research, but I enjoy it. Some is online, but much of it is through old books. For this novel, I found several new sources (beyond the pile of books I already own about life and education in Regency England), including excerpts of Cornish newspapers from the time, accounts of shipwrecks, etc.
A few years ago, while I was researching The Silent Governess, I came across information about private tutors. Public schools as we know them didn’t exist in those days. Parents often hired educated university graduates without fortunes to live with them and tutor their sons, as governesses did for girls. Or, they might send their sons to live with a learned man to be educated in his home. (Jane Austen’s own father took in pupils, so Jane grew up with male boarders sharing her house and her father’s time. Perhaps that’s why Edward Ferrars, in Sense and Sensibility, had been sent away to be educated by a clergyman--and there became secretly engaged to the clergyman’s niece, Miss Lucy Steele).
And lastly, I’ve been able to do some research on location (my favorite sort!) during our trips to England.
If you could give one piece of advice or word of encouragement to an aspiring author of novels in this genre, what would it be?
Many readers know this genre well. My advice would be to do your research or you’ll hear about it later. You will make some (hopefully minor) mistakes. We all do. But do all you can not to yank the reader from the time and place--the story world--you’ve created.
Thanks for the interview—great questions!